Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays!

And have a Merry Christmas - Peace for the New Year.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Found: It just keeps getting better...

Disclaimer: I warned you! Absolute bike mayhem and crazyness follows:

Typical over-the-top CGI'd cutesy Japan music video. But the 5-seater bike is cool...

And.. .yea. lowrider trikes. With sluts. Oh yea! Fucking priceless.

I feel so wrong in posting these two vids together, but it just couldn't be helped. Spotted on bikeportland.org

Found: Bike phenomenon

I'm just speechless... makes me feel a bit sheltered living here in Portland. This is a huge step away from the stereotypical hip-hop/rap artists pimped-up Escalade - even though they look loosely based off of the wheel spinners and stereo systems. And it looks a lot more fun, too.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The first step...

...to fixing a problem is the recognition of it. The New York Times has a good opinion piece about the state of America's economy, and the relationship between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of the people.

The fundamental problem, the problem that is destroying the dream, is the extreme inequality pounded into the system by the corporate crowd and its handmaidens in government.

When such an overwhelming portion of the economic benefits are skewed toward a tiny portion of the population — as has happened in the U.S. over the past few decades — it’s impossible for the society as a whole not to suffer.

Its also nice to know that there are at least a few news publications in the US that don't pull their punches, and are still operate outside the influence of the corporate entertain-a-news, ala Rupert Murdoch and friends.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Found: Freeway Fantasy

spotted on streetsblog

I think whoever was developing the original interstate freeway plan must have been on crack. Sure, I've seen the GM Futurama exhibition in 1939 - which largely did come to pass as reality - but this just takes the cake! I'm not sure if I would want to drive a nuclear-powered "Atom car" - a dirty bomb on wheels!

Ugh, it all just reminds me too much of Corbu's Paris plans.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Found: Design Blogs

For your convenience, a rundown list:

MoCo Loco

...and, of course, there's Portland's very own Just Be Complex in Oldtown.

Found: Panoramas

Check it out! Cool 360-degree pics.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

EPA Trumps California's emissions rules

Including 16 other states that had adopted it, such as New York and Oregon. The new smackdown by EPA administrator Stephen L. Johnson states that no state can impose its own gas mileage regulations to combat greenhouse gas emissions:

The emissions standards California proposed in 2004 — but never approved by the federal government — would have forced automakers to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent in new cars and light trucks by 2016, with the cutbacks to begin in 2009 models.

That would have translated into roughly 43 miles per gallon for cars and some light trucks and about 27 miles per gallon for heavier trucks and sport utility vehicles.

I think we also just heard a lot of shit hitting a very big fan, which will likely be cleaned up with one of the largest lawsuits in American History.

To quite Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, “It is disappointing that the federal government is standing in our way and ignoring the will of tens of millions of people across the nation.”

And I completely agree. The Bush administration, though in its final throes of its 8-year lifespan, just continues to keep on giving to the American people.

PDX Transport #1!

Not really very surprising, considering that Portland has for awhile not been a poster child for urban planning in the United States, but more of a reassurance that what we've been doing is 'right.

The American Planning Association has given its 2008 National Planning Award for Best Practice to Metro's Transit-Oriented Development Program for efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Now Portland just needs to figure out how to cram new housing into existing 'historic' neighborhoods without destroying the stock of cool old architecture, not piss off the neighbors, and retain that Portland quality that entrances so many.

Now, if only they'd improve bus service and build light-rail and streetcar lines to actually serve parts of the city that need it. Either that, or we need a subway - and stat!

As nice as the city is, it seems like all the cool transportation projects go to the burbs; the streetcar is not even considered a transportation project! Of course, nobody really circulates between the Lloyd District along the MLK/Grand corridor as a destination... but then the West Side MAX line (Hillsboro) was largely built through farmland.

To address the transportation needs of the residents, workers and visitors traveling within the Portland Central City, providing a Central City transit circulator, achieving additional economic development, all in a way that gains strong public support.

A counterpoint to this would be the SOWA --> Lake Oswego rapid streetcar line under planning.

At least the Portland Streetcar's website posts some sane and balanced-sounding goals:

  • Link neighborhoods with a convenient and attractive transportation alternative.
  • Fit the scale and traffic patterns of existing neighborhoods.
  • Provide quality service to attract new transit ridership.
  • Reduce short inner-city auto trips, parking demand, traffic congestion and air pollution.
  • Encourage development of more housing & businesses in the Central City.

On a related note, seeing the development boom in Portland over the past five years makes me wonder if we really need to encourage more of it... some developers, such as Weston, who have purchased around 20 blocks worth of land around Sandy Boulevard, are just waiting for the national economy and housing market to improve before bringing in the tower cranes.

Subsidies for most projects are therefore not really needed; I just hope that we are able to have dramatically improved transit service to move people around without traffic going to hell - along with open space and schools. As some have noted, bus service has almost completely gone to shit in this town.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Beer nirvana on the rocks?

Or a starving America? Shortages of hops, barley, and now demand for ethanol is driving up the prices for beer - and even food and dairy production.

Besides the obvious disappointment of rising booze prices, seeing staple food prices of grains, dairy and meats rising ~10% or so each year is going to really make it difficult for people in this country to survive.

The question will become, especially for those poorer Americans, a simple choice: drive or eat?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Biodiesel, take 2

So... as spotted on Blueoregon tonight, there was some concern raised as some of the posters identified a key issue with commercial biodiesel production - namely, that of Palm Oil production in Malaysia and Indonesia in satiating the demand for oil in the Netherlands, the world's thirstiest biodiesel producer.

I believe that the efforts by Oregon's Senator Ron Wyden in securing funding to help Oregon support its burgeoning biodiesel industry is vital to diversifying the fuels used for transportation, heating, and industry. For cleanly grown low-impact feedstocks, such as grass, they can be relatively organic and carbon neutral in their production.

As far as Palm Oil is concerned, however, which is increasingly becoming a very popular fuel and is mostly being driven by the huge demands of the European Union (including nations like the UK and Netherlands) stipulating Biodiesel.

Unfortunately, they did not discriminate as to their sources. Luckily, they are rectifying that as new information has come to light as how third-world nations have been using TERRIBLE, environmentally-damaging methods for producing oil for biodiesel production.

However, there are other, far more environmentally sustainable oils that can be used for biodiesel - this is because you can use a huge variety of vegetable oils in the conversion process.

Luckily, the Netherlands - the world's largest consumer of biodiesel - is demanding oil that is less damaging to the environment. That country also has a pretty big stake in global warming - the country could be off the map even before 2100 if global warming causes sea level rises.

Here are some very interesting quotes:
The world's centres for oil palm production are Indonesia and Malaysia where rapid deforestation and the drying out of asssociated peatlands are, Greenpeace claim, releasing huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and thereby speeding climate change.
BUT - good news also:
In Africa, the situation is very different compared to Indonesia or Malaysia. In its Human Development Report 2007-2008, the United Nations Development Program says production of palm oil in West-Africa is largely sustainable.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Miller Time?

Luckily, I'm not too dead to post this completely awesome commercial for Miller High Life beers. Although I've been a PBR drinker on the side in addition to my love of the microbrew (not to mention darker-than molasses beers), I have to hand it to Miller - these commercials are an outstanding work of art. Just don't watch them all at one sitting, they'll grate on your nerves after awhile - they are definitely meant to grab your attention from the typical broadcast programming.

Delving further, it turns out they are all the work of a certain Errol Morris, documentarian and whom I would consider a film artist (wiki agrees). It's really too bad that we don't see more commercials of this caliber, although the chaff certainly helps us know a gem when we see one.

List of all his Miller commercials here (there's a bunch!). Enjoy.

spotted at bikeportland.org


Fall Term 2007 - c'est finit.

I need a few of these now:

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Smart Car

Crash testing! We've all wondered how well these tiny cars would far in a head-on collision... now you know.

Makes me feel a lot better about driving small cars... particularly since I don't actually plan on running into a concrete wall at 70 mph.

Here it comes...

Can anyone say tidal wave?
First peak oil, and now the kicker: poor and industrializing nations are rapidly increasing the amount of oil they consume, and many major oil-exporting nations within 10 years may become net importers. Since the US currently imports 65% of the oil we consume, where is our oil going to come from?

The US is so screwed... our obsession with the automobile is rapidly meeting its doom. It seems our future may be defined by bicycles and electric cars. Hell, I live in Portland - and we've already been touted as the trend-setter for urban policy, as far as land-use planning and transportation, for around 20 years.

Course, there are all sorts of other interesting technologies being developed that have the potential to supplement and fill in various roles for energy usage and transportation...

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Books and bombs in Baghdad

I'll admit I have been neglecting some of the more important issues, especially China, the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, environmental issues. Hopefully I'll find time to delve into the complexities that they present, especially as I find myself more and more aware of how people view the world in light of the changes they bring on.

So, without further ado...

There has been good news in Iraq. Sectarian violence is down, the number of civilians killed is down three months in a row to 718 in November, and people in the cradle of civilization seem to be peeking their heads out of their doors and starting to even get on with their lives.

Of particular note is a famous Baghdad book market, the al-Mutanabi Street book market, has reopened from a 2006 suicide bombing that killed many and wreaked devastation upon one of the city's main cultural centers for intellectual thought. A $5.7 million reconstruction project is underway to rebuild the bookstores, shops, and repave the street into a pedestrian-only zone. Some of the scholars who ran bookstores - and suffered from loved ones who died in the bombing - are quite dedicated and optimistic since the violence has gone down and progress has been made towards rebuilding.

Someone should start a wiki; it is fascinating to learn about the resurgence of such an important aspect of the lives of these people - whom we barely know anything about. When I first started hearing about the reconstruction projects following the so-called "end of the war," I was highly skeptical that it would be of any use at all, since there was a high - and growing - amount of violence in the country.

However, I feel a great deal of sympathy for the Iraqi and Afghani people, and wish them the best of luck towards rebuilding their nations and bringing them into the modern era. Although I am very for us withdrawing as soon as we can, at the same time I can't help but notice that without these kinds of efforts by the Iraqis and our troops to try to help rebuild their country, it would probably be a total loss by now - even if Rumsfeld's post-invasion plan was a total bag of shit.

Now, if only they can avoid a total meltdown and civil war in the future, things just might work out in the long run.

It's officially winter

If there is one thing I've noticed the past 5 years living in Portland, its that the weather will always keep you on your toes. I remember a multi-year drought when I was a kid, but the weather just keeps getting funkier and funkier... and I'm not talking about El NiƱo, either:

Oregon's first-ever Hurricane is forecast to hit tonight through Monday - bringing winds of over 90 mph on the coast, around 50 mph in Portland for Sunday and Monday - as well as 1-1.5 inches of rain per day.

The upside to all this is that the storm will dump tons of snow in the mountains - this year is turning out to be a truly excellent ski season!

Wise Words

Stumbled across this old and insightful video. Not only is he an eloquent speaker, but Eisenhower offers some sage advice... that has certainly been all but ignored for the past 27 years. Reagan and the Bush family are the perfect model of what he warns us against!